Three Web History Search Tools Examined

The other day I was reading some commentary on Google+.  The author was commenting on Circles and how he didn’t like the paradigm.  That it was a ‘sort’ rather than a ‘search’ paradigm.  He then went on to describe how Gmail changed his behavior – that instead of sorting (filing) emails he just searched gmail.  That’s certainly how I use gmail.

I’d link to the post – but I can’t remember where I put it.  Which is why we’re having this blog post: I want to be able to ‘search’ my web history rather than having to ‘sort’ it with bookmarks or some other technique.

So, I did a little research and found three candidates: Infoaxe, Egoarchive and Google web history (with the help of the Google toolbar).  Here’s a brief run down of each of them.

Web History in the Cloud – Very Scary

So, the idea of all these tools is that you store your browsing history in the cloud.  They all use a browser plug-in that reports every link you visit to a cloud based service.  Then they provide you with some tools to search this history.

This is scary: you’re voluntarily providing your entire click-stream to a third party.  It’s imperative for them to demonstrate that they will take good care of it and they need to provide a lot of value – to me – the user – in return.

Searching Your History

All three work as advertised.  They store your history and provide various ways to search it.  EgoArchive and InfoAxe provide tools for bookmarking stuff in your archive.  EgoArchive also provides sharing tools from within the archive.  EgoArchive actually stores an image of your page – which is what get’s shared.  While I thought this was kind of cool I didn’t find it very useful – it just seems to take up a lot of screen real-estate that I think would be better utilized with a denser presentation of the results.

In the end, none of them were what I was really looking for.  They made me realize I am looking for more than ‘just’ search.  I want a tool that is able to help with organizing the information as well – something more along the line of threading conversations in the email world.  In this sense, Google’s web history did the best job of providing a bit of structure to the data.  Not surprisingly their organization views ‘the search’ as the fundamental organizational construct.  I’m not convinced that’s really the way to think of a click-stream.

Asserting Their Presence

I found that InfoAxe took a number of liberties with my browser settings!  It took over my home page, without asking me.  The nerve!  I was very annoyed.  I removed it almost immediately. Given how much trust I gave them in the first place – here have my click history – I really needed them to be much more respectful about what they were doing to my browser.  I was left thinking: wow, if they’ll do that to my browser right in front of me what might they do with my data behind my back!

EgoArchive was more refined in this respect.  I’m not sure I really enjoyed the way it stuck itself in to the top of my Google search results.  That could use a little refinement.  I don’t like things ‘messing’ with my browser too much.

Google on the other hand almost disappears.  You have to go seek out your web history.  This doesn’t surprise me, since they are probably more interested in how my data helps them organized the world’s information than in how they can help me organize MY information.

Organizing My Information

I think the focus of existing web history tools is on ‘re-finding’.  This is a worthy objective, but seems to fall far short of the potential here.  What I’m ultimately looking for is a tool to help me organize all MY information (at least as it pertains to my wanderings around the web) – without requiring me to become a pedantic filer.  Because that’s just never going to happen!



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